Welcome back, small(er) Ford pickup truck. The Ranger, finally on sale in the US again, made a strong debut in January

Welcome back, small(er) Ford pickup truck. The Ranger, finally on sale in the US again, made a strong debut in January

Up until the last week in January, it looked like US light vehicle sales would come in slightly ahead of January 2018.

However, a severe winter storm brought sub-zero temperatures to the upper midwest and put a chill on dealer traffic.

At the end of the month, total deliveries of cars and light trucks came in just over 12,000 units, or 1% shy of the volume of last year.

Total industry volume was about 1.47m units, yielding a seasonally adjusted annualised rate of 16.9m, down from 17.22m last January.

The US automakers were the big winners last month. With the addition of Tesla, gains posted by FCA and Ford were enough to compensate for another losing month from General Motors and deliver a total volume increase of 5%. FCA, Ford, GM and Tesla claimed 45.7% of total January volume, a gain of 2.6%.

Hyundai and Kia also reported improved sales and the Koreans picked up an extra 0.3% of the market.

Saddled by shortfalls from Toyota and Nissan, the Japanese companies saw their total volume fall 7.4%, costing them the 2.6% of total deliveries picked up by the Americans.

A large part of Nissan's recent woes is the company's effort to cut down on profit strangling daily rental fleet sales and ween itself off costly incentives.

The bright spot was Subaru which continued its streak of sales records with January deliveries up 3.9%.

American Honda posted a small improvement and, the day before the January numbers were released, announced it had taken the top spot in retail passenger car deliveries for the first time in its 49 years in the US market.

Jaguar Land Rover reported a record month as well as a new January record for the Land Rover brand. Volvo sales also improved. However, sales at BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen Group dragged total volume down 4.4%.

Mercedes-Benz held onto the top spot in the premium segment, well ahead of BMW and Lexus. Audi came in fourth, followed by Infiniti, which edged out Acura.

The new Ford Ranger mid-size pickup had a strong debut, beating the GMC Canyon and Honda Ridgeline. Between the top-selling F-series and the Ranger, Ford was just 3,200 deliveries behind General Motors' four pickup models. One of GM's talking points for several years has been that it was the leading seller of pickup trucks in the US and the Ranger could well be the writing on the wall for the General.

Pickup sales were up 7.8% in January with full-size models advancing ahead of the mid-size trucks.

Passenger cars sales fell again, down 5.3%. Cars accounted for 31.4% of deliveries in January.

Crossovers and SUVs claimed 45.8% of total volume, up slightly from last January's 45.3%.

Estimated incentive spending was down about 0.9% from January 2018 and down 3.1% from December. According to estimates from ALG, Honda incentives rose the most last month, up 21% from last year. Honda per-unit spending is still about 41.5% lower than the industry average.

FCA and Ford also increased incentives 6.7% and 6.8%, respectively. But neither spent as much as GM which actually cut its incentives by 2.6%.

With the worst of the winter's chill hopefully behind us, there are still some serious challenges to industry volume in the months to come. Average transaction prices were up 4.2% compared to last January, rising to an estimated average of US$37,149 (GBP28,406), and interest rates rose 1.5%.

Finance terms remained much the same as they were a year ago. The average loan term is now slightly more than 69 months. Fortunately, there haven't yet been any red flags about delinquencies.

US vehicle sales by manufacturers, January 2019

Jan 19Jan 18%chDaily Sales Rate chShare Jan 19Share Jan 18YTD 19YTD 18%ch
FCA US LLC1360821328032.52.511.911.51360821328032.5
Ford Motor Co.1717631604117.17.11513.81717631604117.1
General Motors Co. (est.)184860198548-6.9-6.916.117.1184860198548-6.9
Tesla Motors (est.)319007700314.3314.32.80.7319007700314.3
U.S. Total5246054994625545.743.15246054994625
American Honda1061391045421.51.59.391061391045421.5
Mazda North America2004524962-19.7-19.71.72.22004524962-19.7
Mitsubishi Motors871184802.72.70.80.7871184802.7
Nissan North America100741123538-18.5-18.58.810.7100741123538-18.5
Subaru of America*46072443573.93.943.846072443573.9
Toyota Motors NA156021167056-6.6-6.613.614.4156021167056-6.6
Japan Total437729472935-7.4-7.438.240.8437729472935-7.4
Hyundai Motor America42020412431.91.93.73.642020412431.9
Kia Motors America37376356284.94.93.33.137376356284.9
Korea Total79396768713.33.36.96.679396768713.3
BMW North America2055921953-6.3-6.31.81.92055921953-6.3
Mercedes-Benz USA2380427603-13.8-13.82.12.42380427603-13.8
Jaguar Land Rover10463905015.615.60.90.810463905015.6
Maserati North America9258973.13.10.10.19258973.1
Volkswagen Group**4291544228-3-33.73.84291544228-3
Volvo Cars USA585455675.25.20.50.5585455675.2
Europe Total104520109298-4.4-4.49.19.4104520109298-4.4
Other (est.)72255330.630.610010072255330.6
Total Light Vehicles11469721159119-1-110010011469721159119-1

Source: Manufacturer reported sales

* indicates a sales record.
Note: Monthly sales figures for Ford and General Motors are estimates.
**Volkswagen Group figures include Audi, Porsche and Volkswagen brands
Other includes estimated sales for Aston-Martin, Bentley, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Lotus, McLaren and Rolls-Royce 

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